Last week, in a keynote address to the National Disability Services ‘Disability at Work’ conference, Federal Minister Mitch Fifield announced a financial commitment of $173 million over four years to develop a new wage assessment method and assist Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) to pay higher wages.
In making the announcement Minister Fifield said he was committed to maintaining jobs for supported employees: “We must not deny these people the opportunity to work because of misplaced utopianism.”
The funding will be used, in part, to develop and implement a new productivity-based wage assessment method to replace the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) and assist with temporarily subsidising higher wage costs.
Dr Ken Baker, NDS Chief Executive, welcomed the funding and the Minister’s strong commitment to supported employment.
“Today’s announcement will bring some relief from the uncertainty that ADEs and their supported employees have lived with for 18 months.”
He said it was still unclear how ADEs would be able to afford higher wages beyond the period of subsidy, but today’s announcement should provide space to develop a comprehensive plan to boost the financial viability of ADEs and secure the long-term future of this important employment option for people with disability.
“That plan needs to ensure fair wages for supported employees, no loss of jobs and a financially viable supported employment sector. These are inter-connected objectives which can’t be separated.”
Dr Baker continued: “NDS is keen to assist the Government to develop a new wage assessment method that is transparent and fair to supported employees and to ADEs. We also want to work with the Government on a plan that secures employment for supported employees in the long-term.”